signed in Chinese (upper right)
ink and colour on paper
91 x 65 cm. (35 7/8 x 25 5/8 in.)
Painted in 1952
one seal of the artist
Private Collection, Asia
National Museum of History, The Art of Pan Yu-Lin, Taipei, Taiwan, 1995 (illustrated, plate 104, p. 117).

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Lot Essay

In the west, the exploration and study of proportion and structure of human body started from the Hellenistic period. It wasn't until the rise of humanism during the Renaissance, the value of human identity was revived by praising human body and from then on, the deeply rich aesthetic cultures of human body was established. In China, however, artists were used to paying attention to the blend of nature and human but not emphasizing on human as a single individual due to the affection of traditional philosophy discussing the "unity of nature and human". The depiction of women images did not appear in literature until the May Fourth Movement due of the introduction of western cultures and ideologies, which integrated the awareness of female liberation into the depiction of female body. Nudity painting developed in China after the idea of drawing from real models was introduced in art education. Nude woman is an important element in Pan Yuliang's works, which not only symbolizes the pursuit of beauty and the innovation of art, but also her way of expressing the strong intention of having freedom since her background was controversially unacceptable in the feudal society at that time.
Pan went back to her home country in 1928 after completing her education and returned to France again in 1937. She had always expressed the longing of returning to her homeland in letters written to her family. However, the persistent warfare in China prior to 1949 and the conservative surroundings limited her freedom in art creation. Therefore, she chose to stay in Paris for the rest of her life so as to pursue the independence in creation and personality. In early 1950s, the number of oil painting completed by Pan was decreasing when she moved back to ink and colour painting instead, revealing her return to Chinese traditional media. Moreover, after 30 years of artistic exploration, she was already highly skilful in 2-dimensional media, sculptures, ink painting and oil painting. Thus she turns towards ink and colour painting to express her profound understanding in the integration of eastern and western art. Nude (Lot 1066) completed in 1952 depicts a woman, who seems to be in her deep thoughts, with her legs crossed, head leaning against her hand while showing her profile. Observing from the complicated postures, it is obvious that Pan's handling of figurative is built up by the solid foundation from doing sketches. From 1940s onwards, she had applied lines, originally used in traditional ink painting, on oil medium, going back to the Chinese media at this point and becoming more skilful in handling it. Cadence and speed can be seen in the smooth transition of lines. Although the feminine beauty of women is emphasized in traditional Chinese culture, the women in Pan's paintings are presented in voluptuous shape, full of vitality. A unique spirit is instilled in the depiction of the female form with rich sensuality.
The use of colour in Chinese traditional figure painting is always about elegance and simplicity. Pan retained this tradition and found a completely fresh point of view in her painterly skills. She used criss-crossed brushstrokes, which she developed from oil painting in 1948. The continuous rapid strokes in light colours are arranged in an spontaneous manner according to the contour of the female body. Despite the slight differences between heavy and light, dry and wet brushstrokes, the natural lines depicting the body are aptly composed, representing an actual sense of body proportion which comes from the understanding of the characteristic of eastern and western painting medium . She expresses her theory as "combining east and west in one place, finding myself following my predecessors of the antiquity but not letting myself to just follow them blindly. " The background with long and short, vertical and horizontal lines portrays an effect of interweaving colour and ink, revealing a mysterious and remote spatial depth applied by the united tone of hues viewing from afar.

Traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy focus on the energy and vitality expressed in the use of lines. This application departed from the Western artistic conception to realistically capture a moment. At first glance, Nude is just a typical representation of Chinese technicality of western subject matter. But if we are to observe carefully, it is not difficult to see that Pan is adopting different aesthetic points of view from both east and west to attentively arrange formal elements on her paintings. Through the uniqueness of her painting materials and application, she developed a highly personal style. Therefore, in her artistic career which spans from Expressionism, Fauvism and the ever-changing Chinese artistic tradition, Nude has become her most representational work.

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